This weekend, Western Governors University (WGU) will celebrate the dedication and perseverance of 700 new graduates who have earned their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, marking the second in-person commencement of 2022, which is also WGU’s 25th anniversary year. As the uncertainty brought by the pandemic significantly affected students and their families as they worked toward their degrees, this ceremony will commemorate the culmination of their inspiring achievement. On Saturday, the new alumni will celebrate their well-earned diplomas with more than 4,000 family members and supporters at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Delivering the keynote address will be Juju Chang, one of the most prominent Asian Americans in broadcast news and Emmy award-winning co-anchor of ABC News' “Nightline.” Known for her in-depth personal narratives and long-form storytelling, Chang has won acclaim for stories with underlying themes of civil and women’s rights and social justice. Born in Seoul, South Korea, and raised in Northern California, Chang is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a founding board member of the Korean American Community Foundation.
Since the last in-person commencement ceremony in February, more than 5,000 WGU students have completed their degree programs, joining more than 260,000 alumni who have graduated from WGU since its founding in 1997. Some 340 undergraduate and 374 graduate degree recipients from 40 states are expected to participate in Saturday’s ceremony.
Approximately 72% of the graduates come from at least one of the following historically underserved populations: first-generation college students, students of color, rural residents and/or low-income earners. Graduates earned degrees in business, K–12 education, information technology and health professions, including nursing, and many work full time and raise families while completing their programs.
“For 25 years, WGU has served students who have the passion and drive to improve their lives and their careers by providing them with the tools they need to succeed,” said WGU Provost and Chief Academic Officer Marni Baker Stein. “This commencement ceremony honors our students’ perseverance as they reach this important milestone, which they worked so hard to achieve, and we are excited to celebrate with them.”
Two graduates will also share their stories:
- Tanya Barnes of Overland Park, Kansas, is a teacher who pursued a career in education to help students reach their full potential. She believes all students are capable of success when given the proper tools and encouragement. Barnes earned her B.A. Elementary Education from WGU in January.
- LaKieshia Owens of Indianapolis, Indiana, works as a billing specialist supervisor for Herff Jones. A single mother to four children and grandmother, she is ready to leverage her post-secondary education to excel in her career. Owens earned her MBA from WGU in December of 2021.
In accordance with the updated guidance from the CDC and based on current COVID-19 transmission levels in Maricopa County, face coverings will not be required at the commencement. Individuals who would like to continue to wear a mask may continue to do so.
The combined ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. MST /11:30 a.m. EST and stream live at wgu.edu/phoenix. During the ceremony, graduates will use the hashtag #WGUgrad to share on social media how they’re celebrating.